Coming off the most challenging race season his career, Tony Stewart is hoping 2015 will be a comeback year.
Beset by tragedy and the end of a 15-year winning streak, Stewart’s 2014 finished with a last-place showing at Homestead-Miami.
If there was a silver lining, it was the Owner’s Championship brought home by Kevin Harvick.
The 43-year-old Indiana native began his racing career at a young age and has competed – and won championships – on a number of professional circuits.
“Smoke” owns teams, tracks and whole racing circuits. But can he own Victory Lane again?
Here what you need to know about Stewart:
1. Stewart’s Car Hit Another Driver & Killed Him
In August 2014, Stewart was competing in a dirt track race at Canandaigua (New York) Motorsports Park when his car struck Kevin Ward Jr., during a caution. After running into a wall, Ward got out of his car and began walking on the track in an attempt to confront Stewart. On the next lap, Ward began pointing and gesturing towards Stewart. Stewart’s car hit Ward, severely injuring the 20-year-old. Ward died a short time later due to massive blunt trauma.
Stewart released a statement:
There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and everyone affected by this tragedy.
Stewart was never charged in the incident as prosecutors said Ward was impaired by marijuana.
2. Stewart Has The 3rd Most Wins Among Active Drivers
Stewart has 48 career Sprint Cup wins, which is third on the active list behind Jeff Gordon (92) and Jimmie Johnson (70).
Stewart, though, is in the middle of a 59-race drought. His last victory came in Dover back on June 6, 2013.
Over his 16-year career, he has started 554 races and has 297 top 10 finishes and 15 poles.
Stewart’s first victory came at the 1999 Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 (which more recently has been known as the Federated Auto Parts 400) at Richmond International Speedway in Virginia.
Stewart raked in $4.65 million last season and has won nearly $83 million on the track alone.
3. He Co-Owns The Sprint Racing Team Stewart-Haas Racing
In late 2008, he joined Haas CNC Racing and the team then became Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. Stewart drives the No. 14 Chevrolet SS, while Danica Patrick is behind the wheel of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevy SS. The newest additions to SHR are No. 41 Kurt Busch and No. 4 Kevin Harvick. Harvick won the Sprint Cup Championship last year, his first with the team.
Stewart’s crew chief is Chad Johnston.
Stewart also owns racetracks in Kentucky and Illinois and recently purchased a racing series.
In January, Stewart bought All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series.
4. Stewart Is The Only Driver to Win Sprint Titles in Both Point Systems
Stewart has won 3 Sprint Cup championships – 2002, 2005 and 2011.
The first came in the old points system in the Winston Cup.
The final 2 titles came under the Chase for the Cup format.
Stewart is the only driver to win series championships in both point systems.
5. He Also Won an IndyCar Championships
Winning titles was nothing new to Stewart when he came to NASCAR.
He had won the Indy Racing League championship in 1997 despite winning only 1 race (Pike’s Peak) that season. Though he did lead for the most laps in 7 of 10 races.
Stewart was also the USAC National Midget Series Champion (1994) and the USAC Triple Crown Champion (1995).